Halloween fans turn out to tour haunted town

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 30, 2011

By Hugh Fisher
SALISBURY — Pint-sized skeletons and witches prowled the gravel streets of an Old Western town Sunday night..
A roaring fire kept them and their parents warm, and was just as good for roasting hot dogs.
This was the scene at Happy’s Farm, off Parks Road outside of Salisbury.
Most days, the farm is a combination tutoring and equine recreation facility.
But in honor of Halloween, the model western town turned haunted.
In addition to horseback riding, free food and free arcade games, there are some ghouls to gently spook the passers-by.
And the fun continues from 5 to 9 tonight.
The event is free, but donations will be accepted to support the non-profit tutoring center’s programs.
“We just want to be able to share this with everyone,” said owner Rhonda Stirewalt.
Happy’s Farm offers after-school tutoring. The horsemanship is a bonus and a reward.
“If you can get a child out into a relaxed setting, learning takes place,” Stirewalt said.
The upside of this Halloween event for Happy’s Farm, she said, is exposure.
“I wanted to be able to provide an opportunity for people in the community to come on strictly a donation basis, with something of a scary atmosphere,” Stirewalt said.
As darkness fell, costumed children roamed the gravel lane, playing and shouting.
But the town’s “hotel” is transformed into Dracula’s castle, where the unquiet vampire sleeps, waiting for his next victim.
Also, Stirewalt said, the murderous Michael Myers from the “Halloween” movie series has been spotted in the woods, though he seems to only be targeting older kids and adults.
Outside the building that houses the town’s jail, Claire Hester, a volunteer from the Erwin Middle School Jr. Civitans, served up green popcorn along with a story.
“It was the mistake of a clumsy witch,” Hester said. “While stirring, she bumped the secret ingredient with her elbow.”
The best part, Stirewalt said, was seeing the small children enjoy themselves.
“Their smiles are priceless,” she said.
Millisa Sierawski of Salisbury brought her children out to see the sights.
“This is wonderful,” she said, as her daughter, 9-year-old Jazmin Mollinedo, walked up to a fence to pet one of the farm’s horses.
Sierawski said she might want her daughter to have some tutoring there in math.
“I don’t need any tutoring,” Jazmin piped in.
But Stirewalt told her how math was important to taking care of horses, from figuring out how much feed to buy to how much medicine a sick horse needs.
“That’s what we do here at the farm, they learn,” Stirewalt said.
Ten-year-old Austin Miller spent time by the campfire and exploring the grounds.
“I liked riding horses, and eating,” he said.
His mother, Stacy Miller, was there with other members of her family.
“There’s a whole lot of things for kids to do,” she said.
Parents get a chance to tour the location and see some of the programs Happy’s Farm offers.
For more information, call Happy’s Farm at 704-279-5268.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.